Thursday, July 22, 2010

July 22nd: The overadvertised EXPO

After all of the hype and advertising and talk, I still wasn't quite sure what to expect from the expo.  I had seen online some of the fantastic architecture that showed each country's creativity, but I didn't have any idea what was inside, really, or what else there was.  I did know that there are normally long lines to find out what's inside. 
Common logic might suggest that I should have gotten up early and arrived as it opened to beat the crowd, but I didn't.  I stayed up late last night fighting with the piece of junk computers at the hostel, and then this morning I needed to do laundry (really--couldn't wait, unless I want to wear these pants for the fourth or so time tomorrow).  I just wasn't in the mood to be rushed.  I finally made it out of the hostel just in time for lunch, and wandered next door to an Italian restaurant.  I'll write about my memory trip to Italy in another post.  I really only had a vague idea as to wear the expo even was; I had glanced at a map yesterday, and it seemed that line 8 of the metro might get me close.  Line 8 crossed People's Square; I could walk halfway and then take a metro one stop to there and change, or I could just walk the whole way, which probably wouldn't be any further by the time you take into account all of the stairs and passageways in the cavernous metro stations. 
I did get distracted a bit on the way, but it was a distraction of the best kind.  I knew that somewhere along the road there was an international bookstore, and I stumbled upon it on my way.  I couldn't resist spending awhile just browsing and reading the back covers, and feasting my eyes on all of the old favorites and future reads and classics...it's the little things in life that matter sometimes, and it's been a long time since I've seen an English bookstore.  The only way to get English books in Jingzhou is to order them off of Ebay out of Hong Kong or abroad.  They had a whole section of discount books for 15-18 yuan each--about two and a half dollars.  Coincidentally, I finished the one book I brought with me this morning, and I have several long bus rides, train rides, quiet evenings in hostels, etc. to go, so I bought a few that seemed fairly lightweight: a book of ancient  Chinese poetry that is part of the basis of Taoism (I might as well learn more about Chinese culture as I'm experiencing it; that was the topic of my last book, too), Pilgrim's Progress (one of those classics that, as an English major, I shouldn't admit that I've never read--I find that long trips such as this are a wonderful catalyst to reading those rather ponderous works that I get distracted from normally), Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd (same principle as the second book; also, the title seems appropriate in light of the daily frustration of being one of 1.3 billion), and one just for the pleasure of it, Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone.  My enjoyment of nineteenth century British literature comes through again!
Finally I proceeded to the expo.  It turns out my instincts are quite good; the metro station I guessed as being in the general vicinity turned me out right next to a ticket booth.  I bought a ticket (no lines, walked right up--so far, not the madhouse I was envisioning) and entered.  There weren't too many people in this part of the expo.  I think I had the right idea, coming at three in the afternoon: it doesn't close until midnight, so I've still got hours to explore, but the eager beavers who showed up early have gotten overheated and wandered off by now.  And it was hot--the beautiful clear weather continues, rather miraculously for China, but the sun beats down with an undiluted intensity.  So bright, and my sunglasses are broken. 
I was in the boring part of the expo, the pavilions run by various corporations.  The best part was across the river, so I had to make my way to one of the ferries to go across.  It was a long hard walk--not unreasonably far, really, and I shouldn't have been tired, just starting out--but my heel spur has been getting progressively worse the past few days.  It had improved a lot, but today I wondered if I was really going to be able to walk around this thing--just getting to the ferry felt like walking on knives. 
Anyhow, I did make to the ferry, and across the Huangpo river, and the first pavilion I came to (I planned this) was Italy.  There was quite a line, but this was one I didn't want to miss, so I joined the queue.  Good thing I didn't realize just how long it was at that point, but it moved fairly quickly, although I probably waited for forty minutes or so.  Don't get me started on waiting in lines with Chinese people; I might say something unkind.  Speaking of Chinese, there were a lot fewer foreigners than I had imagined; I often found myself surrounded by only Chinese people.  I finally made it inside, and there were displays of things Made in Italy: a ferrari, a vespa, high-fashion shoes, fancy dresses, super modern chairs and lamps (a mobile of each was hanging from the ceililng).  Above the escalator, there was a cross section model of the Florence duomo.  On the second floor there was a restaurant, but it was a bit expensive and besides I'd already eaten Italian today.  I did get a small glass of limoncello, though, for old time's sake.  I sat down to rest while I drank it; there was no where else to sit in there, and the pain in my foot was to the point that I nearly felt sick.
The late afternoon light was perfect as I left, so I decided to stay outside for a bit and take pictures of the amazing pavilions each country had constructed--really, the adventurous architecture was the highlight.  I know you'll agree once you see the pictures.  Across the way was Russia, Croatia, Slovenia.  I went into Croatia because the line was short, but even a short line was a bit of a waste of time as there were mostly just pictures being flashed around, which I could have seen from the door. 
To be continued...
 *The pictures are of one of the main buildings, which looked like a flying saucer; the UK pavilion; and obviously, the Croatia pavilion

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